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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Franklin & Bash' a thin, but appealing, summer trifle





The chemistry between Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer on the new TNT dramedy "Franklin & Bash," which debuts 9 p.m. Wednesday, is hardly on a par with the best buddy duos of pop culture. To put it simply, they're no Redford and Newman. Nor are they Lemmon and Matthau. Heck, they aren't even Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. No, if the bond between the actors resembles anything, it's the bromance between 80s mainstays Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. But you know what? For a lightweight summer series about a pair of wacky attorneys, the Gosselaar-Meyer team suits me just fine.

The plot is standard "goofy, maverick attorney spice up a stuffy law firm" stuff. Peter Bash (Gosselaar) and Jared Franklin (Breckin Meyer) are ambulance chasers who work out of a home office they dub "the cave." They do things like getting a model to take her top off on the witness stand to prove that a billboard of her caused a traffic accident. Their antics are silly, outlandish and have little to do with the law (except, of course, the kind of law that is practiced on TV. Kathy Bates' character on "Harry's Law" would snatch them up in a second).
Of course, they soon become the darlings of an eccentric, powerful attorney played by Malcolm McDowell, who recruits them to his big, powerful law firm. Needless to say Frank and Bash butt heads with the other attorneys, yet their quirky ways win cases and the affection of their new boss.
There's nothing really new here, yet the show is consistently entertaining, mainly because of the joyful performances of the actors. Gosselaar and Meyer have, between them, reached such career highs as "NYPD Blue" and "Clueless," and such lows as "Saved by the Bell" and "Inside Schwartz." Here, they are somewhere in the middle, and they seem pretty happy there. No, they're not a powerhouse buddy duo, but their antics are mildly appealing. Gosselaar in particular is fun during the court scenes, during which his uses his former-teen-idol-charm to convince us that any judge worth his or her salt would tolerate his antics for a second.
But the real star here is McDowell, clearly having a ball as the wacky law firm boss. In recent years, the once-respected actor has taken to hamming it up on screens big and small. Yet there's little scenery chewing here. Instead, he displays a deft comic touch as the kind of man who knows everything, has done everything and still ceases to be amazed by life. He's great fun.
The show is fairly fun, too, though it feels a bit more attuned to the USA brand than TNT's. Still, it's breezy, silly entertainment -- perfect for killing a little time during the summer months.

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